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Reunion Rape, 5

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 5.

Good news or bad news for Williams?

Policies in the DA’s office around assault and rape, particularly at Williams, became an issue in the DA primary campaign over the summer when allegations surfaced of prosecutorial dismissiveness for rape allegations at Williams. The school reported the existence of allegation of over 40 rapes and assaults in recent years to police, but only one case was prosecuted by the DA’s office. Andrea Harrington, the Democratic nominee, and her allies see that as part of a history of looking the other way by the office, particularly at concerns incidents at the college.

Harrington announced in August that, if elected, she would “review all un-indicted complaints of sexual assault received by the District Attorney’s office in the last 15 years, including processing all untested rape kits.” Such a proposal would require a lot of work and would likely include a review of the conduct of the office with respect to a local college and law enforcement handling of evidence.

“I will make sure that we do a complete and thorough review of all rape and sexual assault cases which are within the 15 year statute of limitations,” Harrington said in a statement to The Greylock Glass.

1) Unless I am mistaken, there has no been a case of “stranger” rape at Williams in several decades, if ever. That is, every reported sexual assault has included the name of the alleged perpetrator (or has been a case in which the alleged victim knew the name of her attacker and declined to provide it). In other words, “processing all untested rape kits” is a giant waste of time, but does serve as a signal to all Harrington’s progressive supporters that she is one of them.

2) To the extent that this also refers to sexual assault cases in which the attacker is unknown, it might make sense. Indeed, it might make sense for Harrington to enlist some Williams faculty and students in the search because her small office may lack the resources for work like this:

In an astonishing bit of work, police were able to track down the man they suspect of being the Golden State Killer after matching his DNA with the DNA of distant relatives thanks to a commercial genetics testing company.

Wouldn’t it be cool if Williams could help Harrington bring some rapists to justice? On this surely all Ephs can agree.

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Reunion Rape, 4

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 4.

Maybe John Pucci is neither a knave nor a fool. He is merely a hired gun, saying whatever his clients want or, much worse, saying whatever he thinks will cause his clients to give him more money. (Informed commentary welcome!) But, surely, we can all agree that this would be a horrible idea?

“But when the district attorney’s office learns that there are as many as 73 sexual assaults that have occurred in the last four years at Williams, they have a duty to investigate,” said Pucci. “And this is not that complicated. It’s stunning to me that Caccaviello can step back and say ‘we inferred they didn’t want to cooperate.’”

Pucci says the DA’s office could have initiated a basic criminal prosecution investigation.

“You contact Williams College. You ask them for their reports and interviews of the victims. If they don’t want to give them to you, you issue a grand jury subpoena,” he said. “The district attorney in Berkshire County has a grand jury standing and available. They issue a simple piece of paper to Williams, Williams gives them the name of the victims, and then they do the basics. The basics are laid out in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security guidelines for sexual assault investigations.”

This is madness! Does Pucci really believe it or is he just saying what his clients want? Or is he just saying what he thinks his clients want to hear?

1) Has any DA in Massachusetts, or in the US, ever done this? Not that I know. (Perhaps former Williams faculty member KC Johnson, co-author of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities, can comment?)

2) What would happen if Harrington did this? I assume that Williams would fight tooth-and-nail. Am I wrong? Perhaps someone at Williams — Meg Bossong ’05? — would like to see more prosecutions of Williams students? Informed commentary welcome!

3) What would happen in the courts? Harrington subpoenas. Williams resists. The judge rules that . . . What do our Eph lawyers think?

4) How does this issue — and her general relationship with Williams College — tie into Harrington’s ambitions? Unlike Caccaviello — a time-serving mediocrity who would have been happy as DA for 20 years — Harrington clearly aspires to greater things. There are two strategies that a backwoods DA might take in climbing the greasy pole of MA Democratic politics: work with powerful local institutions like Williams (in the expectation of future back-scratches in return) or relentlessly attack them in a bid to build name-recognition. Assume that Harrington wants to be a Senator someday. What advice do you have for her?

Background: WW points out that the details of the accusation are horrific (pdf). Key points:

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Reunion Rape, 3

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running ran a (hopeless? hopeless!) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 3.

There is no doubt that the alleged victim and her husband are spending serious money in their quest for justice.

Reading from a statement, Caccaviello told WAMC that the Williamstown Police Department conducted a more than two-month investigation that included interviews with 23 witnesses — 10 of which he said were named by Pucci.

“Prosecutors are duty bound to bring a charge only when there is evidence to support the allegation,” said Caccaviello. “Experienced prosecutors and law enforcement reviewed the matter and concluded that there was not a reasonable basis to bring a charge.”

The timing is unclear (to me).

1) When was the assault reported?

2) Why was the rape kit collected at Mt. Sinai (in NYC?) instead of near Williamstown?

3) When did the investigation start?

4) What are the basic facts of the case? I suspect (but do not know) that this is a classic he-said/she-said case in which no one disputes that two people went somewhere alone and then had sex. The debate is over the existence, or lack thereof, of consent.

5) Eoin Higgins has provided some impressive coverage of this case. The Record ought to, at least, interview him.

Side note:

The school reported the existence of allegation of over 40 rapes and assaults in recent years to police, but only one case was prosecuted by the DA’s office. Andrea Harrington, the Democratic nominee, and her allies see that as part of a history of looking the other way by the office, particularly at concerns incidents at the college.

Which case was “prosecuted by the DA’s office?” I have not heard anything about a sexual assault prosecution involving Williams since Gensheimer/Foster.

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Congrats to Senator Murphy ’96

Congrats to Chris Murphy ’96, newly re-elected senator from Connecticut.

Any other Ephs involved in the elections tonight, either running or managing campaigns?

UPDATE: Fingers crossed for Ed Case ’75 in HI-1.

UPDATE II: Ed Case ’75 wins easily!

Are Murphy and Case the only two Ephs in Congress? How does that representation compare with Amherst/Swarthmore/Pomona?

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Twitter Spat

I love this twitter spat between the official Williams and Amherst accounts. Hilarious! And, even better, it is hard to tell how serious it is . . .

You will know it is serious when the Williams twitter account mentions EphBlog being a much better blog than the now-defunct Am’erst blog . . .

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Reunion Rape, 2

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running a (hopeless?) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 2.

Gossip about this event has been swirling around Williams ever since it occurred. I first heard about it in February 2017. An anonymous alum wrote me:

The reason I have been looking into Falk’s background is that something terrible happened at reunion this past June, involving allegations of sexual assault and rape of an inebriated Alumnus. The accused – her former classmate – is one of the wealthiest members and single largest donors in their Williams class. Suffice it to say that Adam Falk’s response (or lack thereof) has not pleased the victim or her husband (also an Alum in the same class). Understanding what motivates Falk (money, money, money), and getting a better sense of his personal morality goes a long way in explaining his behavior.

1) I suspect that this alleged assault was behind some of the cryptic comments made at EphBlog which connected the resignation of the previous DA, David Capeless, to Falk’s departure. I still think this claimed connection is nonsense. Falk was on his way out. This controversy played no role. (Contrary opinions welcome!)

2) You only truly understand a controversy if you can make the best possible case for both sides. Can you pass the ideological Turing Test? In this case, the key dispute is over the alleged sexual assault. Is the Williams alumna telling the truth or is she not? Make the best possible case for each side in the comments.

3) Should we use the names of the people involved? EphBlog would certainly never publish (without her consent) the name of someone who reported a sexual assault to the police. But what about the accused, someone who is, by all accounts, a fairly prominent member of the class of 1991? What about the husband of the alleged victim? He is neither victim nor accused, but he is (?) also a key part of this story. He may or may not share the last name of the alleged victim.

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Reunion Rape, 1

The election for Berkshire District Attorney has generated lots of discussion (here, here, here and here) at EphBlog. Especially interesting have been the comments (e.g., here) from Interloper, who really ought to join us as an author. Andrea Harrington won the primary but incumbent Paul Caccaviello is running a (hopeless?) write-in campaign. What matters to us, however, are these news stories about an (alleged) rape at reunion in 2016. As one of the four highest profile sexual assaults cases at Williams in the last 20 years — the other three are Gensheimer/Foster, Brackenridge and Safety Dance — this merits a week’s worth of discussion. Day 1.

The accusation:

“I was involved in a case in which I represented a woman who was sexually assaulted at Williams. Let me back up a step and say that I don’t want to make this interview about a single case. I think there’s a much broader and bigger picture of what’s happening at Williams College that really needs to come to light and be focused on,” Pucci told WAMC. “There was a rape at Williams College. The victim and her husband came to me because they were unsatisfied with what was happening at the DA’s office — there was a lack of communication.”

He said they approached him to serve as a lawyer and councilor to ensure their voices were heard.

“From the beginning, the district attorney’s office feigned an interest and oversaw a faux investigation in which barely half of the witnesses were identified, in which my client had had a physical rape exam and it had found a vaginal tear, a very significant finding, and the district attorney’s office would not complete the forensic testing in the case,” said Pucci.

1) Recall that I accused Pucci of being “either a knave or a fool” I was wrong! He is getting paid (big bucks?) to involve himself in this case.

2) I believe — corrections welcome — that the case involves three people from the class of 1991, back at Williams in June 2016 for their 25th year reunion. I think that the alleged assault took place in the Greylock dorms.

There is a lot to unpack here, which is why we will have a week of discussion.

UPDATE: Latest news article here.

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Storytime, 4

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 4.

“One change that we have already made is having a new advisor, Bilal [Ansari], so that we can be directly connected to the Davis Center,” the board wrote. Ansari, who became the advisor this month, described Storyboard as “thoughtful and caring and genuinely concerned about doing things the right way.”

“I love Storyboard,” he said. “I love Storytime. I love what it means. I love what it could mean. It is a place for meaning – it is a meaningful place – that should not stop here. It is really an identifying, unique space that captures in a small time and space the essence of what this place is all about.”

Let’s leave a thorough discussion of Ansari’s bio for another day, except for two items.

Bilal began his community activism in 1994 in Oakland, California at the height of the Rodney King Uprisings.

The Rodney King Uprisings — (?) riots is the more common term — were in 1992.

Bilal is a legacy staff member: His great-grandfather and great-grandmother worked at Williams for 40 years.

Cool! Would love to see a Record article about that, or/and about multi-generational staff in general.

Is Ansari the hero or the villain of this particular story? As long as Storytime comes back quickly, he is the hero.

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Storytime, 3

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 3.

In the last week of the spring semester, Storyboard went on a retreat “organized to consider and address recent conversations on campus surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion with regards to the space we create,” the members of Storyboard wrote. It was then that Storyboard decided to put Storytime on hold.

“Upon realizing how unclear our mission was and the potential need for dramatic change to the preparation and execution of Storytime, we thought it would be most responsible for Storytime to take a sabbatical,” Storyboard wrote.

Bad call, although I can sympathize with the pressure that Storyboard was under. When the PC mob comes from you, it does not care how much good you have done for the community before.

Storyboard will use this break to clarify its mission and make changes to Storytime based on student input. “As Storytime is for the community and not for the Board, we do not feel that we can dictate how Storytime should change,” Storyboard wrote.

Sure you can! Or, rather, only you can decide if Storytime lives on. Don’t let the SJWs destroy one of the many things that makes Williams wonderful.

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Storytime, 2

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 2.

According to Bilal Ansari, Assistant Director of The Davis Center and advisor to Storyboard, the board’s decision to pause Storytime fits into a broader campus movement about “the consumption of black stories, black lives and black narratives.”

The snake of PC gibberish is devouring its own tail, once again. Consider the first 50 or so Storytime speakers. You could never hope to find a more diverse group of Ephs. And, by all accounts, that tradition continued. Storytime has never been about the “traditional” Williams, the Williams of wealth and whiteness, of prep schools and Nantucket vacations. (Not that there is anything wrong with those things!) Storytime has always been a place for all Ephs, but especially for those Ephs whose stories are different, who feel out of place, who want to tell the community of Ephs their stories, and be listened to in return.

This movement took hold following the performance of Ars Nova’s Underground Railroad Game last spring, according to Ansari. The show, created and performed by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard and directed by Taibi Magar, is a provocative comedy about confronting America’s history of slavery, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

The performance at the College sparked controversy, Ansari said. “It had to do with the depiction of African-Americans as slaves, scenes of painful episodes of our enslavement for comedic consumption on the stage and dolls in blackface on the flyers of advertisement,” he added. “Black people were in the audience, and we were experiencing it in tears while our white friends were experiencing it laughing.”

What is Ansari’s role in all of this? I would like to hear from some students.

If I were a Trump supporter on campus — as about 10% of students are — I would be laughing. I would, needless to say, never bothered to attend something as tendentious-seeming as Underground Railroad Game. My white, well-meaning, SJW friends would have gone, of course. But attending is not enough, in these PC times. You can’t just engage in the “the consumption of black stories.” You have to consume them in the right way. Laugh at the wrong times, or in the wrong way, and you are just another racist.

The aftermath of the show led to the creation of a movement, organized by a former Minority Coalition (MinCo) co-chair, called ‘At What Cost?’

Details, please. Does this co-chair have a name? (Looks to be Zeke King Phillips ’18.) “At What Cost?” is also (coincidentally?) the name of a Gaudino project from 2015.

“It sparked some powerful and introspective conversations,” Ansari said. “Students began to say, ‘Let’s call a pause on anything to do with painful stories where people are just sitting there laughing or consuming others’ pain without a deeper effort at community building.’ And so because of that kind of confluence between different things that were going on around campus, Storytime did some self-reflection, asking questions like, ‘What is our mission? What is our purpose? What are we really meaning to do with this space and this time?’”

Which “students” began to say this? If this was the members of the Storytime Board (Chris Avila, Angela Yu, Louisa Kania, Emma Reichheld, Maya Jasinska and Hannah Goldstein), then fine. It is their organization. But if other students were asking for (demanding?) a pause, then that is a problem. Note this sentence from the Storytime Board’s Record op-ed:

The abundance of campus conversations surrounding identity and privilege, inclusion and equity, along with individuals expressing their discomfort with Storytime instilled our conversations with greater urgency.

Emphasis added. Sure seems like some SJWs went after Storytime. And now it is cancelled. So let’s all just go to the football game!

At this point, we feel that this dialogue has been too insular. We want to be transparent and collaborative with the rest of the College community. To begin we reached out to Bilal Ansari, assistant director of the Davis Center to help, and we are grateful that he agreed to advise our board.

Possible translation: We needed a black guy to help us fend off attacks from the SJWs.

Historical footnote: I suspect that Emma Reichheld is the daughter of Jim Reichheld ’87, a campus leader 30 years ago and the Eph most responsible for the use of interviews during the JA selection process. A tendency toward campus service is genetic, as are many things that matter.

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Storytime, 1

Interesting article in the Record about the (temporary, one hopes!) demise of Storytime. Let’s spend 4 days going through it! Day 1.

Storyboard halts Storytime as it reevaluates its mission

On Sep. 26, Storyboard, the group behind Storytime, announced the decision to put a temporary hold on Storytime, citing the need to reflect on its mission and make changes to the event. The sabbatical has no firm end date, but Storyboard hopes to “revive a storytelling space, in a form that is to be determined by the community, by the end of the semester,” the board wrote in an email to the Record.

Kudos to reporter Irene Loewenson. The article, like much of the recent reporting in the Record, is excellent. Two quibbles:

1) Provide a link to your source documents. Show us the entire e-mail. I realize that the Record is technologically backwards, but Lowenson could, on her own, put those docs somewhere and just add a link in the comment box below the on-line version of the article.

2) Say it ain’t so, Rachel Ko ’09! Every single Record article about Storytime needs to mention Rachel Ko ’09, Storytime’s founder. Few (any?) students at Williams have had more of a longterm impact on Williams than she had. Say her name!

“In the past year, Storyboard has been grappling with its mission and questions such as: how does one’s identity inform one’s experience as a speaker and a listener?” the six students who make up Storyboard wrote last Wednesday evening in an email to the student body. “Thus, we have decided to put Storytime as usual on hold, as we open up this conversation to the entire Williams community.”

Huh? Storytime is amazing, wonderful, priceless. Why do we need to put it on hold? Every week that goes by without someone getting the chance to tell their story, and the rest of us getting a chance to listen, is week wasted.

Storytime, the weekly gathering in which a member of the community shares a personal story to a crowd on the second floor of Paresky, is a College hallmark. The optional writing supplement for applicants to the College mentions Storytime; one of the three prompts reads, “Each Sunday night, in a tradition called Storytime, students, faculty and staff gather to hear a fellow community member relate a brief story from their life (and to munch on the storyteller’s favorite homemade cookies). What story would you share?”

Why hasn’t Rachel Ko been awarded a Bicentennial Medal yet? She is much more deserving than many of the mediocrities the College has been honoring over the last few years. And she is a woman! And not white! What’s not to love?

Experienced Williams observers, whenever they see something inexplicable like the end (?) of Storytime, always suspect PC nonsense as the underlying cause. And so it is in this case! More tomorrow . . .

Historical note for Storyboard: Your organization was established in 2007, not 2005.

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Berkshire DA Race

Letter to the editor in the Eagle:

This letter is in response to a letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle in August of this year. The letter, authored by John Pucci, a donor to my opponent, claimed that the Berkshire district attorney failed to investigate or prosecute over 40 cases of sexual assault reported by Williams College between 2014 and 2016.

The allegations in this letter were extremely disturbing as they are completely contrary to the mission of the office and goal of protecting victims. I contacted both Williams College and the Williamstown Police Department to begin an inquiry into the matter and found that Mr. Pucci’s claims were not only without merit, but misleading, ill-informed, and insensitive to victims.

What I discovered was that the majority of the information provided by Williams College to the Williamstown Police Department did not contain sufficient data to permit a thorough investigation by law enforcement.

We in the DA’s office fully respect the rights of victims who chose to remain anonymous and not move forward with an investigation and we understand that the college also has an obligation to provide a safe atmosphere for its students to speak freely. What is disappointing, and irresponsible, is that Mr. Pucci chose to blame the Berkshire district attorney’s office for the nature of Williams College’s public disclosures of sexual violence. Politicizing this issue was not ” just politics” — it is just wrong.

Paul Caccaviello,

Pittsfield

The writer is Berkshire district attorney and is running as a write-in candidate for election on Nov. 6.

1) Caccaviello is 100% correct. If Williams College won’t report the names of alleged victims or perpetrators, there is hardly anything that the DA or police can do.

2) Williams is 100% correct to not report things to police against the wishes of alleged victims. It is their decision to make.

3) John Pucci is either a knave or a fool.

4) Any comments on the DA race? See here for previous coverage and related links. Does Caccaviello have a chance? I doubt it. Write in candidates (almost) never win. Is there any scenario in which Andrea Harrington is not the next Berkshire DA?

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Asian-American Admissions

From abl, someone I think worked in admissions at Williams 10 years ago:

At least a decade ago, Williams did not have any sort of quotas for Asian-American applicants of which I was aware, nor did Williams actively discriminate against these candidates. I can’t imagine that’s changed. That said, I think there are number of admission biases that, probably unintentionally, favor wealthier white applicants — and, in the process, disfavor other demographic groups, including (but not limited to) Asian-American applicants. These biases are more cultural and are not racial, but I suspect that they account for the disproportionately poor outcomes for Asian American applicants at most elite schools.

Another interesting point along these lines: Williams is somewhat different from most of its peers, in that for a complicated number of reasons (including its location, size, culture, and reputation), Williams’ Asian-American yield relatively lags (or at least it did a decade ago). As such, even if the Williams admission process was not culturally biased, we should not expect to see the explosion of Asian-American matriculants that might present at a place like Harvard.

I have no reason to doubt abl’s testimony. Indeed, my preferred simile is that Asian-American admissions to elite schools today is like Jewish American admissions a century ago: significant quotas at places like Harvard but no discrimination at Williams.

However, just because a story is flattering does not mean that it is true. Does Williams really not discriminate against Asian-Americans today? And, if it doesn’t, how long can that happy state of affairs continue, the math being what it is. If Asian-Americans are 6 times more numerous than African-Americans/Hispanics in the upper reaches of high school academic achievement (and they are), how long before Williams needs to start discriminating to avoid imbalance?

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Horn Update

Update from this summer on the case of Ragnar and Joey Horn:

There have been several such cases [regarding au pairs] in Norway in recent years, along with repeated calls to reform or even scrap the au pair system. One of the biggest cases, involving alleged misuse of two au pairs by a wealthy couple in Oslo, was back in court late last month.

Ragnar Horn and his wife Joey Shaista Horn appealed their conviction last year, which included five-month jail terms for each of them and a fine of NOK 372,000 (USD 46,500), on the grounds their punishment is much too severe. Their lawyers, including two of the most prominent in Oslo, argued for full acquittal of their convictions on charges of making false statements and several violations of immigration law, also because some of the activity deemed illegal by the Oslo City Court allegedly exceeded the statute of limitations.

Prosecutors, however, view the case as vital also for setting precedent. While defense lawyers claim the case never should have gone to court, and that fines alone would have been sufficient, prosecutors claim the sentences handed down by the Oslo City Court were important as a matter of principle. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported that prosecutor Hans Petter Pedersen Skurdal, who had sought six-month jail terms, claimed in court that it was “important” for judges to react strongly to violations of the au pair system.

DN reported that the appeals court upheld the conviction of the Horns, but reduced their jail sentences from five months to three and their fine to NOK 186,000. The appeals court ruled that four months in jail was appropriate, but gave them a one-month “rebate” because of the lengthy amount of time it took for their case to be considered.

Their lawyers, still arguing for full acquittal, said they would be appealing the Horns’ convictions and sentences to Norway’s Supreme Court.

Previous discussions here and here.

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de facto Spokesperson, 3

Excellent, albeit naive, Record article by Arrington Luck ’22 about Michael Wang‘s ’17 role in the debate over discrimination against Asian-Americans in elite college admissions. Day 3 of 3.

The New Yorker article concludes with:

When [Michael] Wang [’17] and I finished lunch, we returned to his office. We stopped to get bubble tea. As we waited, I asked him about the purple button-up shirt he was wearing—wasn’t that the color of Williams? He smiled, and began rhapsodizing about his time at the college: Thanksgiving dinner with his professors; making Asian food with friends; his twenty-first birthday, when a professor took him out to a bar. He started to talk faster, and the rote stiffness with which he’d recounted his complaint suddenly melted away. “The education I got at Williams was incomparable to what I would get at Harvard,” he said. “I still would have gone to Williams, even if I had gotten into those other schools, now that I’ve been at Williams.”

Good stuff! Record reporter Arrington Luck might get the details behind these stories, especially the professors who had such an impact on Wang. Tell us their names! Interview them about their students, especially those who were rejected by places like Harvard.

EphBlog believes that at least half the students accepted to both Harvard and Williams would be better off at Williams.

The night before Wang’s graduation, he and his friends stayed up late talking about the past few years, cherishing a few more hours together. He had spent all day packing up his room. The next morning, he and his friends listened as the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the commencement address. “Her message was, you know, when you go out into the world, do things that you won’t regret,” Wang said. “You’ve been given the tools to make an impact and change the world for the better. Go out there and do it.” He thought, Wow, that’s what I want to do. ♦

EphBlog’s advice: Do not go to law school.

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de facto Spokesperson, 2

Excellent, albeit naive, Record article by Arrington Luck ’22 about Michael Wang‘s ’17 role in the debate over discrimination against Asian-Americans in elite college admissions. Day 2 of 3.

Luck described Wang’s high school record as “stellar, boasting a perfect ACT score, a 4.67 GPA . . . ” Business Insider went with:

Wang’s credentials are impressive. Academically, he was ranked second overall in his class and graduated with a 4.67 weighted grade point average. He scored a 2230 on his SAT, placing him in the 99th percentile of students who took the exam. . . . Wang still feels as if he was unfairly rejected from the Ivies.

“I think I deserve better than what I got,” he said.

No, you didn’t.

1) Perfect (i.e., 36) scores on the ACT are common. One of the big problems with the ACT is how “coarse” the grading system is. A 36 corresponds to anywhere from 1520 to 1600 on the SAT (math + verbal).

2) We do not know what the breakdown is on Wang’s SAT. The Writing score was, by far, the least important, which is why it has been discontinued. If we just divided the 2230 total by 3, we get an average score of 743, which equated to 1480 or 1490 on the math+ verbal. Although those scores are above average for Williams, they are nothing more than average at Harvard.

3) Wang went to James Logan, a not very good California school. He may have graduated as the #2 student in his class, but what matters is your ranking at the time of college applications. I believe he was ranked 4th or 5th then. Either way, this case highlights that resume items like GPA and class rank are meaningless without the context of school quality. Being the #4 student at Stuyvesant or Boston Latin or Andover is deeply impressive. Such a ranking, plus good test scores, gets you into Harvard. But being #4 at an average (below average?) high school is little to brag about. Places like Harvard (and Williams) regularly turn down the valedictorians from such schools.

Summary: I waited till after Wang graduated to write about him even though he has been in the news for years because I was embarrassed for him. His high school record would probably result in rejection from Harvard even if he were white.

There are rejected-from-Harvard Asian-Americans, many of them at Williams (several of them Michael’s friends and roommates!), who have a legitimate beef with the current system. They probably would have been accepted at Harvard were they white, and definitely if there were African-American or Hispanic. But Michael Wang ’17 is not one of them, which may help to explain why he is only an “informal” spokesperson for SFFA.

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de facto Spokesperson, 1

Excellent, albeit naive, Record article by Arrington Luck ’22 about Michael Wang‘s ’17 role in the debate over discrimination against Asian-Americans in elite college admissions. Day 1 of 3.

1) I no longer trust the Record to maintain an accurate on-line presence so, going forward, I will always save a copy of each story I discuss below the break.

2) Luck begins with:

On Monday, a trial regarding anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard was brought to the United States District Court in Boston. The plaintiffs, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), allege that Harvard’s admissions practices intentionally discriminate on the basis of race. Filed by the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), the lawsuit is expected to last approximately three weeks and have consequential outcomes potentially impacting affirmative action policies. Michael Wang ’17, a graduate of the College and an informal spokesperson of the SFFA, alleges discrimination by numerous other colleges to which he applied but was rejected.

This is a good summary of where we are at. Glad to see that the Record is attracting reporters with potential, like Luck. But the first warning sign is “informal spokesperson.” Just what does that mean? SFFA is a serious organization, spending millions of dollars over a decade of activity, with plans on spending many millions more. SFFA has an official spokesman. They hardly need an “informal” one as well. And just how does Luck know that Wang has this role? Did he check with anyone at SFFA? Should he?

3) Luck continues with:

Michael Wang ’17 was unsure about what he could’ve done better after rejections from Yale, Princeton and Stanford. His high school resume was stellar, boasting a perfect ACT score, a 4.67 GPA, a founding role in his high school’s math club and a piano performance at President Obama’s inauguration, according to The New Yorker.

Hmmm. He played piano at Obama’s inauguration? That would be impressive! But let’s just cross-check that claim with the New Yorker article.

In 2012, Michael Wang, a senior at James Logan High School, in the Bay Area, was confident that he had done enough to get into one of his dream schools: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton. He had the kind of G.P.A.—4.67—that looks like a typo to anyone older than thirty-five. He had aced the ACT and placed in the ninety-ninth percentile on the SAT. But Wang didn’t want to be seen merely as a bookworm—he was an accomplished member of the speech-and-debate team, and he had co-founded his school’s math club. He played the piano and performed in a choir that sang with the San Francisco Opera, and at Barack Obama’s first Inauguration.

Now I am confused. Obama’s first inauguration was in 2009. Wang was 13 or 14. And he was good enough to play piano for Obama!? Anyone else starting to smell the embellishment? Or should there really be a comma after piano in the New Yorker article? And just how does one sing “with the San Francisco Opera?”

As best I can tell (disagreements welcome!) what really happened (YouTube here and here (with, perhaps, a shot of the young Wang)) is that Wang was a member of the San Fransisco Boy’s Chorus which, along with the San Fransisco Girl’s Chorus, was invited to sing at the inauguration. Good stuff! But he was just one of 75 children to do so, nothing that Williams (or Harvard) would ever care about in the context of college admissions.

But do you see how far away from the truth Luck is? Wang did not play “a piano performance at President Obama’s inauguration.” Will the Record print a correction?

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Proposals for Claiming Williams

From Professor Gail Newman:

The Claiming Williams Steering Committee invites members of the community to propose events for Claiming Williams Day 2019 that can spur dialogue and move us toward action. As many of you know, this will be the 10th anniversary of the first Claiming Williams, which took place in January 2009 after a series of incidents in an entry sparked a student movement that was joined by staff and faculty, and became known as Stand with Us. Even though Claiming Williams Day now takes place every year, similar incidents continue to occur, and the current political climate threatens to further widen divisions at Williams and beyond.This year also marks other important anniversaries: 50 years for Africana Studies, 30 years for the Davis Center, and 15 years for Latinx Studies.

On January 31, 2019 Claiming Williams Day will invite the college community to Stand with Us Now—to come together to reflect on changes that have occurred at Williams in these year, and changes that we can undertake for the future.

1) Will the Claiming Williams Steering Committee be smart enough to heed my annual advice? Doubtful!

2) Is there any actual evidence for the claim that “similar incidents continue to occur?” The Record should find out! We have regular “hate hoaxes” in which someone, generally a minority, commits an act of racist vandalism but that is not (presumably!) what Newman is talking about.

3) Is there some significance to the phrase “Stand with Us Now?” The original movement was called “Stand with Us.” Does Newman not know that? Is she purposely changing the slogan to update it after a decade? My guess is that this phrasing first appeared as the special theme for last year’s Claiming Williams. Newman doesn’t realize that the original movement was just “Stand with Us.”

Entire e-mail below the break.
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Harvard Admissions Trial, 5

See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 5.

The Harvard Crimson‘s coverage of the trial has been excellent. My favorite article so far:

Getting into Harvard is hard. But it’s a lot less hard if your family promises to pay for a new building, according to internal emails presented in court on the third day of the Harvard admissions trial.

Same for Williams. You really think that applicants named Hollander or Horn are treated the same as everyone else? Ha! My best guess — and I don’t have good information on this one — is that between 5 and 20 of the students in each Williams class would not have been admitted were it not for their families being major donors, or potential donors. Other estimates? abl?

The handful of emails — most of them sent between administrators and admissions officers — hint at the College’s behind-the-scenes fondness for applicants whose admission yields certain practical perks. Hughes referenced the emails as he quizzed Fitzsimmons on the “Dean’s Interest List,” a special and confidential list of applicants Harvard compiles every admissions cycle.

1) Never put something in an e-mail that you wouldn’t want to be read out loud by your worst enemy in open court.

2) At Williams, the lingo is “development or future fundraising potential,” although, back in the day, folks in the admissions office used to refer to a rich-but-not-very-qualified applicant as a “Morty Special.”

“Once again you have done wonders. I am simply thrilled about the folks you were able to admit,” Ellwood wrote in the email. “[Redacted] and [redacted] are all big wins. [Redacted] has already committed to a building.”

If you don’t think that there are similar e-mails floating around the Williams computer system, you are naive. Helpful advice to new General Counsel Jamie Art: Time for some spring cleaning before Williams gets involved in this sort of litigation.

Yet another email Hughes read aloud Wednesday offered a window into how Harvard courts candidates whose families have deep ties to the University — and even deeper pockets.

After the family of an unidentified applicant donated $1.1 million to the school, former head tennis coach David R. Fish ’72 treated that candidate to a special tour of campus.

Who remembers this fun discussion from EphBlog 13 years ago?

For Sam Dreeben ’06, the July 12 campus tour was already unusual. With a tour group of undercover College dignitaries — President Schapiro and the Schow family — and unsuspecting prospective students, his job as a guide was to make Williams seem an idyllic mountain paradise of academic excellence.

Which, of course, it is. But big donors make the paradise possible, so take care of them we must.

Read the rest of the Crimson‘s coverage for more fun details.

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Harvard Admissions Trial, 4

See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 4.

Yesterday, I wrote (slight edit):

If admitted students in a category, like legacies, have similar academic qualifications than other students in the class then, almost by definition, they did not received a large advantage in admissions.

This seems obvious to me. Now, a nihilist might disagree, might claim that the “holistic” admissions that Harvard and Williams practice make it impossible to compare categories. The galaxy brain of Admissions Director Sulgi Kim ’06 is a multi-splendored emerald of infinite complexity. Mere mortals can no more discern its inner workings than dogs can interpret the movements of the heavenly spheres. I think this position is nuts — and both sides of the Harvard case disagree with it, hence all the regression modelling and expert testimony — but it is logically consistent.

abl, one of EphBlog’s best writers, disagrees with me about legacies:

That’s not true. If literally every legacy applicant was an AR1 and AR2, and legacies were guaranteed admission, you would simultaneously see (1) that legacies have, on average, higher academic credentials than the average student (because the average student at Williams is not an AR1 / AR2); (2) that legacies received a large boost in admissions (because a 100% acceptance rate would represent a very significant advantage for AR1 and AR2 applicants).

[A]ny proportionate (or disproportionately high) number of legacy high performers in the class does not imply that legacy applicants are given no meaningful advantage in the process.

abl continues:

My point is that, without inside knowledge of the process, or without very good knowledge of the applicant pool and relative admit rates, it’s difficult to look at the class of admitted students and draw these sorts of inferences about the advantage of applying as a legacy student.

This is dangerously close to the Sulgi Kim Inestimable Galaxy Brain view of admissions. I have (almost) no “inside knowledge” of the process and not “very good knowledge” of the applicant pool. Almost all my information comes from public statements by college officials. Are you claiming that I can’t know — without inside knowledge — that Williams provides significant advantages to recruited athletes and African-Americans? And, if you agree that I can make those judgments, just what is stopping me from making a judgment, using the same tools and analysis, about the lack of advantages given to legacy applicants?

abl is certainly correct (and he uses a similar example later in his excellent comment) that weird stuff might be happening behind the scenes. There are 55 legacies in the class of 2021. Perhaps 35 are AR1 geniuses, applicants who were also accepted at HYPS but turned them down to come to Williams. The other 20 are AR4 chuckleheads, who never would have gotten in if it were not for their legacy status. This scenario would create a group (55 legacies) with similar academic credentials to the class as a whole, but it would still be the case that 20 of them received a “meaningful” admissions advantage (and 35 did not).

I agree that this is possible, but it also strikes me as highly unlikely. The world is a continuous place.

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Harvard Admissions Trial, 3

See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 3.

In the last two days, we have established two key facts about legacy students at places like Williams and (?) Harvard. First, legacies — meaning the children and grandchildren of graduates — are about 10% to 20% of each class. Second, legacies as a whole have more impressive academic credentials — meaning test scores and high school grades — than non-legacies.

Is legacy versus non-legacy an apples-to-apples comparison? Probably not. Legacies are whiter, richer and less athletic than the class as a whole. Since all those things make it harder to gain admissions, we really ought to compare legacy students to a “matched” group of non-legacy students, a group with the same distribution of characteristics like race, family income and athletic ability. That would help us to determine if legacies get an advantage or not.

Note that the argument can also go the other way. Consider the case of “development” admits, students who would not have gotten in if their families were not major donors, or at least potential donors. Such admissions are much more likely to be legacy students. But they aren’t getting accepted because of their legacy status. It is their families wealth that is getting them in. They still would have gotten in, regardless of where their parents went to college. Without the family wealth, however, they would have been rejected.

The expert testimony in the Harvard trial tries to tease apart these effects using a regression analysis. We can dive into the details, if anyone is interested.

For me, the key point is the following: Any category of applicants which receives a meaningful advantage in admissions — recruited athletes, racial minorities, billionaire families — will have lower academic qualifications than the class as a whole. If a category, like legacies, has similar academic qualifications than, almost by definition, they did not received a large advantage in admissions.

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Harvard Admissions Trial, 2

See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 2.

Yesterday, we confirmed that 10% to 20% of each class at elite colleges like Harvard and Williams are “legacy,” meaning students with a parent (or sometimes just a grandparent) who attended the college. Today, we review how much being a legacy affects one’s chances at admissions.

The brute fact is that the average Williams legacy is more academically impressive — higher SAT/ACT scores, better high school grades, more impressive teacher recommendations, et cetera — than the average non-legacy. Whatever advantages legacies have in the admissions process is de minimus. The same is almost certainly true at places like Harvard. Razib is wrong when he writes:

I think the current lawsuit may win on the merits, but the “Deep Oligarchy” is more powerful than the judiciary or the executive branch. If, on the other hand, Harvard gets rid of legacies and special backdoor admissions, I’ll admit I was wrong, and the chosen have lost control of the system. As long as legacies and backdoor admissions continue, you know that the eyes are on the prize of power and glory.

Harvard and Williams have, already, gotten “rid of legacies” in terms of this being something that matters significantly in admissions. Let’s review the story at Williams.

1) Back in the 1980s and before, legacy was a significant advantage in admissions, partly because there were so few high quality legacy applicants. These were the children of the 50s graduates, an era when lots of not-too-smart men attended Williams.

2) Things began to change in the 90s and 00s. First, the raw number of alumni grew significantly. (Williams doubled in size, mainly as a result of the move to co-education.) The pool of legacies doubled in size as well. Second, the academic quality of the students was much higher in the 60s and 70s, which led to smarter children. Rising numbers and quality of legacy applicants meant that Williams could become more choosy. And so we did. From 2008:

Morty [then-President of Williams] noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams. Morty noted that the way that some people measure this — by comparing the general admissions rate (16%) with the legacy admission rate (40%?) — was misleading because legacy applicants are often told ahead of time that they have no chance. So, they don’t apply and/or withdraw their applications, thus artificially increasing the legacy acceptance rate. Non-legacies with no chance are not given this inside scoop. They just apply and get rejected.

3) All those trends have continued to this day. From 2017:

I [Director of Communication Mary Detloff] had a conversation with [Director of Admissions] Dick Nesbitt about this, and he says it has long been our policy not to release academic standing information for specific subgroups of students. That said, he also shared that for at least the last 20 years, the legacy students have had equal, if not marginally stronger, SAT scores and Academic Rating when compared to the rest of their classmates.

4) I have had off-the-record conversations which suggest that, for the class of 2021, the 10% of students who are legacy have meaningfully stronger academic credentials than the 90% who are not legacy. This is precisely what the trend over the last 30 years would have led us to expect. Williams classes in the late 1980s were filled with smart people. Although I can’t find fecundity data, I bet that there are at least 500 (or more like 1,000?) 18-year-olds each year who are Eph legacies. Regression to the mean is brutal, but it only occurs on average. It is hardly surprising of 50 to 100 of those children would be as smart (or smarter) than their parents. Williams won’t get all of these, of course, but it will have scores of great applicants to choose from. (And the exact same math applies at Harvard.)

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Harvard Admissions Trial, 1

See The Wall Street Journal for background on the Harvard admissions trial which starts this week. Best commentary is from Razib Khan at Gene Expression. Should we provide daily coverage, connecting news from the courtroom to EphBlog’s coverage of admissions issues at Williams over the last 15 years? In the meantime, let’s spend this week reviewing some of aspects of the debate. Day 1.

How much does being a legacy matter? First, the Harvard Crimson causes confusion with charts like this:

This suggests that more than 1/3 of Harvard students are “legacy” since it implies that everyone not in the first bar belongs in that category. But that is nonsense! Legacy, at places like Williams and Harvard, has a fairly precise meaning: one or both of your parents attended the college. (Admittedly, sometimes having a grandparent (but not a parent) will get you included as well, but no one counts you as a legacy if all you have is an aunt or twin sister at the school.) The Crimson’s chart presentation, which includes double-counting, makes it hard to see the truth. (I also suspect that some (many?) students misunderstand the Crimson’s wording and answer “Yes” if their mom went to Harvard Law School. Having a parent who attended a university’s professional schools does not make you a “legacy” for the purposes of undergraduate admissions.)

Williams admissions (pdf) are 10% — 15% legacy.

Harvard and Yale have a similar percentage of legacies, as The Crimson reported in 2011:

[Harvard Dean of Admisssions William] Fitzsimmons also said that Harvard’s undergraduate population is comprised of approximately 12 to 13 percent legacies, a group he defined as children of Harvard College alumni and Radcliffe College alumnae. . . . [Yale Dean of Admissions] Brenzel reported that Yale legacies comprise less than 10 percent of the class, according to Kahlenberg.

This is, obviously, very consistent with what Williams has been doing for (at least!) 30 years. I can’t find a clear statement of the percentage of legacies in the 6 Harvard classes covered by this trial, but my back-of-the-envelope calculation puts it at around 12%, similar to what the Crimson reported in 2011 and what we know about Williams.

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October 17 Faculty Meeting Agenda

Dear Colleagues:

We look forward to seeing you at the faculty meeting on October 17 at 4:00 p.m. in Griffin 3.

The agenda and related materials are attached to this email.

Best,

The Faculty Steering Committee & Maud Mandel, President of the College
Sara Dubow (Chair), Division II
Colin Adams, Division III
Michelle Apotsos, Division I
Matt Carter, Division III
Aparna Kapadia, Division II
Amanda Wilcox, Division I

———–
Here are the materials (pdf), well-written and thoughtful as always. Any insiders with opinions?

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Funding Opportunity: Towards Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE)

Why can’t we just make these e-mails public? Future historians will thank you Maud Mandel!
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Committee on Priorities and Resources

Why can’t we just make these e-mails public? Future historians will thank you Maud Mandel!
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Verbal Warning

A former Williams professor (and Williams graduate) writes:

Doug in point (2) says that there is no strong trend about class year for students who are caught with honor code violations. I would like someone to run the same analysis for the length of time that the professor has been at Williams. I think that new professors are overburdened with these cases, and not because “senior faculty [are] less wise to the ways of the internet.”

In new faculty training, all new faculty learn about the honor code, and learn that if there is ANY suspicion whatsoever of an honor code violation, we are REQUIRED to report it. We are told that the chair of the honor committee will look into the case and if it has no merit will not pursue it, so there is no reason not to report something. So what do new faculty do? When we see anything that seems like cheating, we report it.

I went through this as a first-year Williams professor, because my students cheated. It was an extremely unpleasant experience that I would never desire to repeat. Everyone did their job well and was very professional, but it was time consuming and not fun: I had to carefully submit the evidence, explain my side of the story with the committee and the student in the room — oh, and teach the student during the week or two between the violation and the case. It was like a trial. It was stressful for me, even though I had done nothing wrong. I was shaking when I came out of there.

(Let me reiterate that I would not change anything about the process; I think it is done very well. It’s just stressful and unpleasant to take any part in a trial like that.)

What do older Williams professors do? They don’t put themselves through that, because they know that they don’t have to. They deal with the issue “in house.” They give the student a verbal warning. (Professors CANNOT impose any punishment, such as failure in the assignment or on the question, without going through the honor committee.)

I am huge fan, like Diana, of the current process and work of the Honor Committee. Kudos to all involved. I especially like that only students vote on the outcome and that only students/faculty are involved in the process. There is no (yet!) assistant dean for the honor code, no paid outside investigators.

We should do exactly the same thing for accusations of sexual assault as we do for accusations of academic dishonesty. Given the number of complaints, we need a new committee. It should be student-faculty, with only the students voting on the outcome. If such a process works well for academic violations of community standards, why wouldn’t it work well with for sexual violations of community standards? (Note that the Honor Committee is also involved in issues outside of academic disputes.)

The more that students and faculty run Williams, the better.

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How Much Cheating?

How much cheating is there at Williams? A student writes:

For those who have never read the honor code committee reports, especially current students, they’re a very worthwhile read. They alert you to the specific kinds of behaviors that actually get you the black-mark of academic dishonesty on your transcript. Some notes about them:

1.) Why are there so many typos in the honor committee reports? Even a cursory reading of these 4-6 page documents would correct for these rather glaring errors. If you’re publishing something that will have your committee’s name on it, and your committee is essential to the academic integrity of the college, you’d think the document would be a little more polished.

2.) There doesn’t seem to be a strong trend in what class years are accused/found guilty of plagiarism. If, as Shevchenko asserts above, academic dishonesty stems from different high school backgrounds, we’d expect for the influence of those differences in secondary education to diminish over the course of students’ time at Williams, leading to an overrepresentation of freshmen in honor committee hearings. There’s many other reasons we’d expect for freshmen to be overrepresented (e.g., students get better at cheating). I haven’t run the data, but there seems to be a pretty even mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors being tried for honor code violations.

3.) Professors have tremendous difficulties catching students who are cheating on take-home exams. During my time at Williams, take-home exams were incredibly common, especially in DIII courses, and it was common knowledge that students would cheat on these assignments. When you’re alone in your room taking these exams, there’s not a lot to stop you from opening your textbook or phone to look for answers on a surprisingly difficult question, and resisting this urge is difficult with up to 30% of your grade is on the line. I believe this is probably the most common source of cheating at Williams, and the most pernicious, since take-home exams are frequently major assignments and professors will be hard-pressed to catch students.
– Only 3 students in the 2016-2017 school year were accused of cheating on take-home exams (I would guess that over one-thousand take-home exams are administered each year and the incidence of cheating is much, much higher than 0.3%).
– These two students were caught due to incredibly flagrant violations of the honor code: one had verbatim copy/pasted material off of Wikipedia (laugh, then expel this student immediately for their sheer stupidity); the other two had identical portions of their assignments, obviously indicating collaboration. All failed the courses, no additional sanctions.
– The previous year also had two violations, one with obviously identical material between two students and the other with a student who turned herself in.
– Conclusion: Professors are not detecting/reporting who is using textbook or online sources during take-home exams. This should be a huge concern to professors and the college.

4.) Similar to #3, only one student in the past two years has been found guilty for cheating with the use of a smartphone in general. Once again, among students, it’s common knowledge that you can have your phone in your pocket and then go to the bathroom to use your phone to look up answers during a self-scheduled or even an in-class exam. One student being found guilty of this behavior is surely the result of a very low detection rate rather than a low prevalence rate among students. As with cheating on take-home exams, this should be a huge concern of the college.

5.) Only incredibly sloppy and obvious instances of cheating are being detected. Take a scan of any of these documents; a large majority of cases involve verbatim similarities between two students’ work or between a students’ work and the internet. Virtually none of the students who are cheating in more careful ways are being caught; it’s all the low-hanging fruit of lazy or stupid students who make the egregious error of copying text verbatim.

So, if you’re planning to cheat at Williams, don’t verbatim copy text from an internet source or a friend. This is essentially the only reliable way you will be put in front of the honor committee; such violations constitute a large majority of honor committee hearings. With a little bit of cunning, you can *easily* use technology to get away with cheating. Until the college finds a better way to catch students who are cheating, possibly by banning take-home exams, it’s almost guaranteed some of your peers will be engaging in this behavior and will get away with it.

How much cheating is there on take-home exams?

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Pseudo-Judicial Process

An anonymous Williams professor writes:

1) My impression, informed by years of experience (and not just at Williams), is that more senior faculty, less wise to the ways of the internet, are far less likely to catch out cheating on term papers than their younger colleagues. So as Div I and Div II profs get younger in the years to come there will be more complaints of cheating in general.

2) Despite Honor Code histrionics, penalties for cheating at Williams are lenient compared to other institutions I’ve taught at. Even clearly guilty students are regularly acquitted by the committee, or treated with incredible indulgence. And the goals of the committee are often unclear. Frequently professors with incidents before the honor committee feel that they themselves have been subjected to trial and scrutiny. This is true even though professors are told over and over that they have no discretion in reporting suspicious incidents.

3) More on that lack of professorial discretion: Because profs are required to report all suspicious incidents, it is the committee chairs who decide whether to go forward in any given case. Incidents will fluctuate from year to year based upon the sensitivity and concerns of the committee chairs. Any increase in honors cases is just as likely to reflect the differing sentiments of the people running this show.

4) “Cheating is on the rise!” has been a refrain of the honor code crowd since I arrived at Williams and it has grown tiresome, particularly to the degree that it provides occasion for people like Shevchenko to pontificate about what I ought to be telling my students.

5) The pseudo-judicial process conducted by the Honor Committee is largely hidden, with all parties sworn to silence. The honor code hyperventilators thus participate in a system of sanctions that is for the most part out of view, and yet they wish their toy trials to have deterrent effects nevertheless. Thus faculty are enjoined to bang the plagiarism drum in their seminars so that the Honor Code people can have their cake and eat it too.

Would other Williams professors like to comment?

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Guide to Athletic Admissions

The purpose of this post is to provide a guide to athletic admissions at Williams. Read Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League by Chris Lincoln for all the messy details. (Despite the title, Lincoln covers NESCAC athletic admissions thoroughly.) See this three part series from the Bowdoin Orient. Williams is no different than other elite schools when it comes to athletic recruiting. Check out EphBlog’s prior coverage. See also last week’s review of Williams admissions as a whole.

1) General athletic ability/accomplishment does not matter. No one cares if you won the high school Judo state championship because Williams does does not compete in Judo. No one cares if you were captain of your high school soccer team if you aren’t good enough to play for Williams.

2) Only the coach’s opinion matters. Even if you play a sport that Williams cares about at an elite level, it won’t matter unless the coach wants you. If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an amazing goalie, perhaps even better than the current Ephs, and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on the coach’s list. (She only has so many spots and wants to use them for positions that need more help.)

3) There are approximately 100 students in each class who would not have been admitted were it not for an Eph coach’s intervention. There are 66 “tips,” students whose academic qualifications are significantly below the average for the class as a whole. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below.

4) The number of tips/protects varies by sport as do the minimum standards. Football gets the most, by far, followed by hockey. Certain sports — crew, golf, squash — receive much less leeway. Football and hockey can let in (some) AR 5s. Other sports can’t go below AR 4 or even AR 3. Coaches have some flexibility in terms of using these spots, taking 4 people this year but 6 next year.

5) The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4 — top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score.

6) Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

7) My recommendation to President Mandel: Create another committee to revisit this topic. Fewer preferences given to athletes would raise the quality of the student body as a whole. The MacDonald Report made Williams a better college. Do the same again.

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